In conjunction with Pride month, TRNK, a New York City-based design studio, has debuted the digital art exhibition MIEN, with proceeds from the project going to the Ali Forney Center to support LGBTQ+ homeless youth. The exhibition features the work of queer artists of color who “showcase portraiture photography to explore identity beyond visibility." TRNK founder Tariq Dixon worked with the various artists to "bring their diverse prints into conversation with one another."
“Rather than presenting queerness as a cultural homology or indulging the exotification of black and brown bodies, these photographs take authorship over individual lived experience, while acknowledging contributions to a representative body politic,” reads the description of the work.
The release of the exhibition also coincides with worldwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism following the recent police killings of Black people George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade (among so many others who came before). In a statement to The Advocate, Dixon highlights Christian Cooper, the Black man who was birdwatching in Central Park and kindly asked a white woman, Amy Cooper, to leash her dog. She then made a false 911 call claiming that an “African-American” man” was threatening her life.
"It feels like the mainstream is starting to gain a heightened awareness of the trespasses committed against people of color on a daily basis. Unfortunately, this attention was sparked by a series of tragic events that feel all too familiar for Black and Brown people in this country. These acts are undeserved, unlawful, but most importantly, inhuman,” Dixon said.
“For all of their uniqueness, queerness, and individuality, I also feel that the power in these artworks lies in how universally human they are — a humanity that society often attempts to deny us, but one to which every conscionable person can relate if he/she/they tries.”
“The Christian Cooper incident is a reminder that there's no amount of conforming to white America's notions of palatable behavior that will appease society's deeply entrenched racism and bigotry. These artworks remind us to live freely, to celebrate everything that society attempts to diminish, and signal to the world that our sense of pride and dignity is unrelenting," Dixon said.
Artists' bios and art descriptions by Sean Santiago.
The full title of this work by Elliot Jerome Brown is "Breath tucks in and weighs the eyes closed. Beyond that callused layer lie a circular gradient of white, into yellow, into burnt orange and red. A euphoric entrance into day, and yet space becomes obscure and distant in the dark. Suddenly, in the aftermath of that quiet to-do of colors, my body is the only thing I know to be here. 'Take your time,' you whisper."
Elliott Jerome Brown Jr. (b. 1993, Long Island, NY) utilizes photography and sculpture to visualize intimacy, communion, and self-possession. He is a recipient of the 2019 Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Grant and has participated in the New York Times Portfolio Review (2016), Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2017), and the St. Roch Community Church Artist Residency (2018-2019).
The poster print is adapted from a work titled "Te Extraño" (featuring model Aram Ramirez, styling by Nayeli de Alba, makeup by Dindi Hojah, hair by Erich Clemenz, and produced by Calos Castellanos).
Dorian Ulises López Macías (Aguascalientes, Mexico, 1980) is a documentary and fashion photographer. He's the author of Mexicano, a decade-long photographic project that celebrates the diversity of Mexican identity, reviewed by The New York Times, El País, and others. His photographs have been exhibited at the Whitney Museum in New York, the Photo Vogue Festival 2018, the Museo del Chopo, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the Palais de Tokio in Paris.
This poster is derived from a photograph titled "we lay in a bed of queen anne's lace and I offer you twenty tons of honeysuckle clover' by Naima Green.
Naima Green is a Brooklyn-based artist and educator whose practice is rooted in placemaking and intimacy. She is the creator of “Pur·suit,” a deck of playing cards and forthcoming archive featuring queer womxn, trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming people. She earned an MFA in photography from ICP-Bard, an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a BA from Barnard College. Her work has been featured in exhibitions at the Smart Museum of Art, MASS MoCA, International Center of Photography, Houston Center for Photography, Bronx Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and Arsenal Gallery.
The poster print is adapted from a work titled "de la calle / a la calle - Rafa Esparza's performance for ICA LA" by Dorian Ulises López Macías.
"Alpha Male" by Chicago-based artist Guanyu Xu is part of a larger body of work called "One Land to Another." The series interrogates issues of homophobia, racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and political ideology.
Guanyu Xu's photographic interventions offer an exploration of his complex personal history and identity. His work bridges the gap between the personal and political, highlighting the disparities and connections between two nations, in which his intersectional experience of the U.S. meets his conservative familial experience of China. His works have been exhibited globally, including at the Aperture Foundation and ICP Museum, and can be found in public collections including those of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
Nelson Morales has dedicated himself completely to photography since 2008. His work focuses mainly on issues of gender, body, identity and sexual diversity. His work has been exhibited globally, including in Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Canada, Portugal, Malaysia, India, Brazil, Argentina, and Columbia, to name a few. His achievements include finalist in the FOLA Photobook Award (2018) and first place in the Pride Photo Award in the Netherlands (2019).
Simone Thompson is a freelance photographer based in Los Angeles. She primarily shoots 35mm & 120mm film. Thompson says of the work:
"My piece 'Schentell' was captured to portray the intimacy and stillness that can be found within the confines of a city landscape. This portrait continues to resonate with me because it reflects the strength, balance and inner calm I felt within the subject.
"This portrait was taken on the 30th birthday of one of my good friends while I was living in NYC. I took it early on in my photography journey, and it was one of the first photos I shot that provided me with a very specific and lasting feeling. I like the softness and femininity conveyed here despite it being a hectic, bustling day in New York, and it was nice to provide a close friend with a portrait of herself on such a milestone birthday. It felt really intimate and special."
This poster is derived from a work titled "San Cha, 2018" by Texas Isaiah. The photo features the queer Mexican-American musician after whom the photograph is titled.
Texas Isaiah is a visual narrator based in Los Angeles, Oakland, and NYC. His intimate works celebrate the possibilities that can emerge by inviting individuals to participate in the photographic process. Texas Isaiah’s work has been exhibited in numerous spaces such as Fotografiska (NYC), Aperture Foundation Gallery (NYC), Charlie James Gallery (LA), Studio Museum in Harlem (NYC), Residency (LA), Hammer Museum (LA), and The Kitchen (NYC).